An Irish Chef in France

Martin and Sile Dwyer’s Chambre d’Hôte in the Languedoc has been closed by Covid for months on end. So now‘the dinner’ takes on a different role - and, simple as it is, Martin’s Lockdown Cauli story will resonate with many other cooks and chefs, no matter where they are. 

As we get through our third period of locked down here in Languedoc and our house remains stubbornly quiet, I start to think about the passers of time that we use to get us through these quiet times.

I suppose that, because I have been a chef now for 50 years anything culinary has become important in my life and being a chef in lockdown with only the two of us in the house that translates directly into “the dinner”.

As there are no outsiders to impress we are tending to eat very simple foods. One of the things we try and avoid is shopping - whether that is in supermarkets or in open air markets. Shopping involves us in a lot of close proximity with a whole lot of people and so we are more comfortable avoiding it as much as possible.

This quite often leaves us looking into our stores, into the fridge or even on to the vegetable rack searching for something which will get us through the dinner without having to shop.

This is why the humble cauliflower seems to have taken over as one of our staples.

Now I am I confess a fairly old fashioned chef, a meat and two veg kind of man but I am still aware that a lot of people aren’t like this anymore and having a main course of a roast cauliflower is not unheard of in other households.

This has set me off experimenting.

The great Irish solution with Cauliflower has been the standard and much abused Cauliflower in Cheese sauce. Done well with a good bite remaining in the vegetable and a good strong flavoured cheese it can still be a delicious dish, but let’s face it, it is often way below par. The best description I have heard of this dish at its worst was a friend who described a hotel meal served with Cauliflower Cheese as a side; “ It was impossible to tell where the cauliflower ended and the cheese sauce began”.

So rather than try to gild that particular lily I set about roasting cauliflowers with various ingredients from the larder and am glad to report that I think I have now mastered my favourite way to cook this vegetable.

It seems to have adopted a few Mediterranean ingredients (our local sardines from Collioure are excellent) and these touches really do give it an extra edge.

Mediterranean Roast Cauliflower
Serves four as a main course with other vegetables, or six as a side.
1medium cauliflower
3 whole anchovies (or 6 fillets) well chopped 3 fat cloves garlic - grated Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 3 tablespoons of sherry ( or dry wine)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
Preheat the oven to 180c.

Brown the almonds on a dry pan. Trim the cauliflower of most of its leaves and slice across the base so that it stands. Cut a cross in the core.
Make a paste with the anchovies, garlic and lemon zest then add the juice, the sherry, and the oil.
Rub this paste into the cauliflower. Put into a casserole with a lid ( or a roasting tin well sealed with tinfoil) add half a cup of water to ensure it doesn’t dry out. Put into the pre-heated oven.
Cook for 45 minutes basting with the pan juices a few times (check after half an hour to ensure it still has some liquid in the pan).
Take off the lid or the foil and cook, uncovered, for a further 15 minutes.
Sprinkle over the toasted almonds before serving.
It is worth noting that if you pop some potatoes into the oven as you put in the cauli they will just be ready at the same time - and if you have a vegetarian in the house you can substitute some stoned finely chopped olives for the anchovies.

Martin Dwyer started cooking professionally over 40 years ago in the legendary “Snaffles Restaurant” in Dublin. After a time in a Relais Chateau in Anjou and in “The Wife of Bath” in Kent he opened his own acclaimed restaurant, “Dwyers”, in Waterford in 1989. In 2004 he sold this and moved south to France where he and his wife Síle bought and restored an old presbytery in a village in the Languedoc. They now run Le Presbytère as a French style Chambre d’Hôte. Martin however is far too passionate about food to give up cooking so they now enjoy serving dinner to their customers on the terrace of Le Presbytère on warm summer evenings. Martin runs occasional cookery courses in Le Presbytère and Síle’s brother Colm does week long Nature Strolls discovering the Flora and Fauna of the Languedoc.
Le Presbytère can be seen at:;


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